Jumbo hunt gone wrong

Discussion in 'Bowhunting Africa' started by Fritz Rabe, Jun 1, 2012.

  1. Fritz Rabe

    Fritz Rabe AH Veteran

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    Jumbo hunt gone wrong

    This is a story that was never going to be told. I wanted to forget the whole thing as soon as possible. After struggling with my thoughts for a long time, I am compelled to tell it. To share it with fellow bow hunters so that someone can understand and learn from my mistakes. I am not proud of it or of the part that I played. Posterity though, demands that the story is told and I shall tell it as truthfully as it happened.

    We were along the Matetsi River in the north of Zimbabwe. The Hwange National Park was to our South and also our boundary. To the North was the mighty Zambezi. It was extremely hot and the bush was dry with hardly any food for the animals. We were overlooking a herd of elephant that was trying to feed from the green reeds growing along the river. The food was so scarce and un-tasty that the elephants were chewing more than swallowing.

    My client (Mr X) was from the big country on the other side of the world. He wanted a Jumbo. According to him, he has hunted a lot with his bow. White tail, Mule deer, Moose and Elk have fallen to his arrows. The previous year he hunted a Buffalo with another outfit. I presumed that he enjoyed it as he spoke about the hunt often. His setup was great. He had an Elite GT500 set at 90lb with 1100gr arrows and 210gr German Kinetics. This was going to be a difficult hunt as the area was devoted of good food for the browsers and the big bulls were all moving deep into the Hwange so as to find energy for their great bodies. The breading heards could not follow as the small calves would never be able to walk 70km from the river to the next available water and then another 80km to the next. They stayed along the river and surrounding hills and waited for the rain that was due mid October.

    Looking at the heard below us I could clearly see no big bodies and knew that there was nothing to follow. This was day 6 of a 12 day hunt. We covered +- 15 20km every day and I could see that it took its toll on my client. His 60th birthday was a month before and this was his party. There was some more movement in the reeds and we could not clearly see the size of the lone jumbo, so we decided to go down and check.

    The reeds were way over our heads and the wind was swirling all over the place as we went into that stinking hot river bed. The visibility was 10 feet so we were extra careful. I could hear the closest jumbo less than 20m away but could see nothing. A rustle close to me made me look to the left. I nearly jumped clean out of my boots when a Bushbuck ram barked 3 meters away.

    The elephant stuck his trunk in the air and sniffed the breeze. He came forward purposefully to inspect the intrusion. At 10 yards I waved my gun above my head to get his attention and make him aware of us. He pointed at me with his double barrel trunk and lifted his head high. (Don't move) I said to my client in a low voice. By now I was aiming for a brain shot should he decide to push us. My friend and Zim PH was ready next to me.

    Three things happened at the same time. There was a crashing sound behind me. The elephant flattened his ears, lowered his head and came. We dropped him a mere 4 yards from us. He was a small bull that was not even out of his teenage years. His tusks looked like bananas. The noise behind me was the clients nerve that broke and he made a run for it. The result was a dead elephant that was suppose to grow into a tusker 25 years from now. National Parks sent a scout with us and his report said that it was self defence. It did not make me feel any better.

    After we found the client that the trackers had to locate, I gave him a good dressing down. He had some excuse that I was not interested in. I was mad as hell. Back at camp he was his old self again. His family just sat with big eyes when he told them of his experience. I should have known then.

    That evening I explained to him again what he could expect on the hunt. I told him that with all the leaves of the trees on the ground, we would be doing well if we could get a 30y shot. I wanted him to practice at 40y just to make sure he could hit a target as big as a dustbin. He was adamant that he was not going to shoot further than 20y because that is how it is done. I just sighed and hoped that we could do it.

    Late in the afternoon of day 10 saw us walking back to the truck from a distant waterhole. We all froze when we heard the tree branch break not to far away. Where did he come from? I knew that it was a bull because he did not make a sound. Cows make a lot of noise the whole time and you can hear them from far away.

    He was not perfect but he was there and we were running out of time. Mr X wanted him badly. He wanted to rush in and shoot before the bull moved off. We had a tough time to get him to relax and do as we say. We stalked him carefully so as not to spook him. Time was what we did not have with dusk less than 2 hours away. He was in a clump of Faiderbia Albida trees or Anna boom as we know it. There were Ilala palms all over the place that made getting a clear shot difficult. At 30 yards we could see his back but nothing else. He moved a lot and never settled at one tree. This made us retreat our steps a lot.

    Suddenly he came walking straight to us. He did not know that we were there and came to a tree 10 yards from us. Mr X came to full draw as the bull shook the tree to make the pods fall. I moved him 2 steps to the right to get a clear shot at the lungs. (Shoot) I whispered as the whole target opened up. My .416 was ready just in case. The game scout disappeared as was usual. My friend/PH was crouched behind a bush and could not see the bull clearly. Mr X stayed at full draw and did not shoot. I still do not know why.

    Just then the bull saw us and spun around. As he turned Mr X released the arrow. I did not hear him shoot. I only realised that he did when I saw a yellow fletch disappear a foot in front of the elephant's back leg.

    The bull was swallowed up by the Lala palms in an instant. It happened so fast that I could not get a shot of. As the bull turned when he saw us, I lowered my rifle and looked at the client to see what the problem was and I never expected him to shoot. I ran to catch up with the bull but it was of no use as he went flat out and I had to zigzag around trees and bush. In my gut I knew that he was wounded but hoped that with the angle, the arrow would have penetrated the liver. My first priority was the client and I went back to him. He was smiling proudly and wanted to know why I ran after the elephant. I told him what I saw and that we have a wounded jumbo with only about an hour of light left. He thought that I was dreaming and said that the shot was good and that we will find him dead soon.

    Just at last light we took the spoor. There were a few drops of blood and then nothing. 300 meters further, we could not follow the tracks anymore and decided to return to camp and be back before first light. Everyone in camp congratulated him when he told them how easy it was. I sat with an aching feeling in me and could not sleep that night. I re-lived the episode over and over in my mind but could not come to think that we would find him close. Myself and my Zim friend discussed our options deep into the night. This was his first bow hunt for Elephant and he was not what to expect.

    At lunch the following day, we were 18km from the place where the elephant was shot. We only found three drops of blood and not once did the bull stop. He ran for +- 2km in a dead run before he settled into that fast gaiting walk that just eats up the miles. He drank while crossing the Matetsi. An hour before sunset he crossed into another concession and we had to call of the pursuit. This was 31km from where we started according to the GPS. The client could not keep up the fast tracking pace in the scorching heat and returned to camp at lunch. This suited us fine as we could cover ground faster without him nagging at me for being on the wrong track. I knew that our trackers would never follow the wrong track but he was convinced.

    We spent half of the next morning to get permission from the other concession to follow the wounded bull. The client flew out that same day and it was hectic. I promised him that I would find the bull and send him the tusks. We followed that bull for 3 days and a total of 84km when a scout from Parks contacted me on the radio and told me that they located him in thick Jess bush about 10km in front of us. We rushed there as my driver brought the truck to us. Seeing the spoor, the trackers informed the scouts that found the elephant that it was not our bull. The Parks scouts argued with us and said that they saw the arrow wound on its left side close to the back leg. Because they were in charge of this follow up, we could not argue too much.

    We went into that Jess hell and quickly came upon the elephant. I could only see parts off him at 15 yards as the bush was horribly thick. The scouts instructed me to shoot when I get a gap. Moving slowly I got a glimpse of his eye as he stood broadside and put a bullet through his brain. It was not our bull. Now we have shot two elephant bulls that were not supposed to die. Parks just shrugged their shoulders and said that we must keep following the tracks. We wasted so much time after recovering the elephant that there was no light left. The next day we followed the tracks for only a short time before we lost it in a very rocky area with hundreds of other elephant around that obliterated his tracks.

    I could not believe that we lost. This was the first Big 5 animal that I could not find after it got wounded. I had to abandon the search as another client was flying in for his hunt. Parks kept looking for our bull while Yawan and I were hunting Leopard and I was hoping every day that they would call me with good news. It never came. I know that somewhere in the thick bush of North Western Zimbabwe, lays the skeleton of an elephant bull that I guided and that died a horrifying death. He shall never be forgotten and I wish that I could ask forgiveness from him. He and two others never deserved to die in such a way.
    What mistakes did I make? In my opinion?? PLENTY!

    You be the judge.

    *PS. Three months later, we found him where he died. There was nothing left of the body but the tusks were intact and the broad head was amongst the bones.

    Fritz Rabe. Askari Adventures
  2. spike.t

    spike.t GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    fritz i dont think you should beat yourself up too much over this. i would say the client is to blame, and unless you can operate him by remote control you can only hope he does what you tell him to do. i have been in the same situation as have many where the ph and myself are looking at each other wondering why the client hasnt taken the shot and time runs out, and then they take the shot when its too late and you arent expecting it, or hopefully, you get to say dont shoot. you did your very best to find the animal, and there is nothing more that you could do. the part with the nat parks scouts was also beyond your control in a way as they were in charge, and there isnt much point in arguing with them...... my thoughts on the hunt anyway.
    tiss kocovsky likes this.
  3. timbear

    timbear AH Enthusiast

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    Fritz, you are a hunter with a conscience, and I admire that, so I will not offer you cheap consolation. Sometimes we all stuff up horribly, and someone else, whether human or animal, pays the price for it. The measure of a person is what we do with this. You obviously have taken the episode to heart, and I would bet it has made you a better hunter, and possibly a better person. If it has, these elephants have not died in vain, and you should eventually be able to forgive yourself, although you will never forget.
    I also agree with Spike, though. A client is supposed to be an adult, and therefore responsible for his actions. There is only so much you can do about his actions even if you are standing right next to him.
  4. iamyourhuckleberry

    iamyourhuckleberry AH Enthusiast

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    A PH once told me, "It's not the bow, it's the indian". In this case, I feel you hunted with a poor representation of the latter. I see a huge amount of conviction in your story...yes, you are to blame. Had I been the PH, your client would have been finished after the first bull and the poor display he presented there. Yes, it would not be worth either the death of an animal or a human when a small man with a big ego was at play. But Fritz, you cannot judge every bowhunter from this one man's actions. That's unfair.

    You might consider a screening process in the future. Spend more time with your clients before a big five hunt. Perhaps you could do a two to three day abundant plains game hunt-as a requirement. Assess how they respond to your directions and their ability to use the bow. If it isn't a good fit, refund their money. Give them the option to stay and hunt plains game or a trip back to the airport. Be open and honest with them in the beginning. Let them know you mean serious business...because it is! They shoot when you say shoot, they freeze when you say don't move! Building a reputation as a stern PH will drive the clients you desire. I would hunt with you, and I would thoroughly enjoy the preface as well as the hunt. It is always good to know exactly where and how a man stands. It builds that element of trust which is so critical to any relationship.

    I have always said life is a game of connect the dots. You, my friend, are on your way. It gets easier to sort the good from the bad as you go...

    I tip my hat to you ,and I wish you the very best! Good hunting...
  5. spike.t

    spike.t GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    hucklberry from the amount of guiding with bowhunters fritz has done i dont think he is judging every bow hunter against this mans actions at all. i think it is easy for you to say that after the episode with the first bull you would have terminated the hunt, but most ph,s only get paid for the days they are hunting, and also usually work for a company in which case they cant stop the hunt without permission from the top. i also think that there would have been a lot of aggro with the client/caused later by the client for the ph and safari company that the owners might judge not worth it, as this client sounds like just the type to do that. the screening process you propose is interesting but i think impractical. the honest straight to the point talk maybe using this story (give it to the client to read), and laying the rules down during the booking process could be the way to hopefully prevent the same. i think any one on this site would hunt with fritz just from the effort and way he writes his stories if nothing else. :D
  6. Fritz Rabe

    Fritz Rabe AH Veteran

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    Thank you guys. It is nice to get this feed-back.
    I can unfortunately not realistically "screen" clients. Our profession is so competitive that if a client feels like he is being "interrogated" he will go to someone else.

    In this job as like every other one, you get good ones as well as bad ones. I must say that the bad ones are far in the minority.

    I am a bow hunter myself. I do not just guide for it. I know that most bow hunters are passionate people - even more so than rifle hunters. No offense.

    I also do not blame him for running. No person knows how he/she will react in such a situation if he/she has never been in one. I know of PH's that ran and left the client to face the music.

    I do blame myself for the way that I handled the situation. I should never have taken my eyes off that bull. Then I would have had enough time to put a back-up shot into him.

    This was by far not the most difficult client/hunt that I had. There were far worse.

    And yes, I do work for an Outfitter - Paul Ferreira of Askari Adventures. He is of the old school. He just say - deal with it and see to it that you are professional.
  7. spike.t

    spike.t GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    fritz its easy to say you shouldnt have taken your eyes off the bull, but as i said earlier you will eventually look round at the client after what seems like an age, just to find out for yourself what is happening. "deal with it" thought that might be the case :D
  8. Ole Bally

    Ole Bally AH Enthusiast

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    Fritz, I am not judging you....made too many of my own screwups, so I understand your pain and frustration!! But there is so much in this story that needs mention! First is your client! After the first incident of him running and his big mouth afterward, you should have taken tighter control over him - you really will next time! Next thing however, I agree with the client...40yds is too far for archery elephant. 20 - 30 yds max. Just too much can happen over 40yards of arrow flight. Been there and done that! Your friend/ Zim PH should have been controlling this hunt! Its the law! On the second ele, the client AGAIN lost his nerve which is why he didn't shoot as it posed a danger to him! To all appearances he sounds like a bit of a yellow bellied 'bushwacker'! I'd love to tell him " If you wanna run with the big dogs you can't piss like a puppy!" The NP scouts are not ever in charge of any follow up! They are with your safari to observe the hunt and report on any legal infringements. You can and should argue...the result of not doing so is now obvious! Who now paid for that second Ele? It had to come off the quota and had to attract revenue as it wasn't shot in self defence or anything? I am surprised that the NP scouts - if they did - accepted responsibility for that! Your Zim PH's head is on the line for that! Never leave the client in camp whilst doing the follow up...if he screwed up the shot he must face the music. He must at least be with the follow up even if it's in the truck, but after my issue...he's with me right there, like it or not! I have no doubt that he went back stateside and told all his mates what a hero he is and how you screwed up his hunt, how useless the trackers were along with the plethora of other excuses! I have a story to tell you sometime about my learning curve on that! But I suppose you can tell by now that I feel quite strongly about shitty attituded clients (thank the Lord they're few and far between!) and 'so called' 'experienced scouts' screwing around with my safaris!:redhot:
    Trust me my friend you are not alone in your boat! We've all been there. It's what we call school fees in our family! I really took soured hunts to heart as a youngster and would agonise over them for ages! But really, whats done's done and we have to move on! I admire you for putting this to paper ( so to speak!).
    Put it all down to experience! Like a zim politician once said to me when I asked if they couldn't just look north at the mistakes made there and not repeat them here. He told me...we are entitled to make our own mistakes! :0)
    If it's any consolation, he didn't die an agonising death...he just slipped away from the blood loss.
  9. iamyourhuckleberry

    iamyourhuckleberry AH Enthusiast

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    Understood Spike. I was working under the assumption Fritz was an owner operator. My bad.
    I agree with the straight to the point discussion and rule making from the beginning. For me, an elephant on the ground would mean the hunt was over-regardless of who killed it. As the hunter, I would extend myself to assure the fatal shot was mine. This may mean politely grabbing the PH and backing away from a situation unsuited for bow hunting. It is something I have done in the past. I make great and tenacious effort to live to hunt another day.

    Again, I think this is a "connect the dots" moment. There were many situations, in the story as presented, that were less than ideal. Yes, professionalism is key. We are not perfect, but we can strive to do our very best. Who could ask anything more?

    Fritz, can I ask-with due respect, and not knowing precisely the situation-what drove you to take a bow into heavy reeds, after an elephant? I would have been hestitant...patiently looking for a more ideal shooting situation. A situation where animal and man were clearly visible and seperated by more than a few meters. Again, with all due respect.
  10. RickB

    RickB AH Fanatic

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    I can feel your pain. Though it was not an ele, 6 years ago I had a bad hunt on a white tail(my worst hunt ever). I got out of my truck walked into the woods loaded my shotgun and started up the mountain to my tree stand. About 30 yards into the woods. About 50 yards up the hill 3 does jumped up. Now after the previous year, not being able to get a shot at a deer in almost this exact spot. I decided to buy a shooting stick and carry it with me on my journeys to my stand..... just in case, I would have a solid rest. I needed meat so I picked out the largest doe, clicked off the saftey and squeezed off the shot. Now it was early and light was not great. But the shot felt great. Fully expected to find her close by. When I got to the spot she was standing I saw nothing! After waking arround the area I finally find 3 small drops of blood. Then 4 more a few feet further. Then sitting on top of a rock like someone put it there on purpose is a piece of copper jacket from my bullet. Just as shiny as can be. I still have that piece of that bullet. No clue what happened to that doe. I walked all over that hill side trying to find her. Just kills me to know that I hit her and never found her. I feel it has made me a better hunter. Always double checking my shots. Still hurts when I think about it. But as others said we must learn and move on. All adds up to make us the hunters we are. I am sure you will never forget. An you will prob tell others of your bad hunt along the way. Hopefully they will learn from it as well.

    .....We live and learn
  11. Fritz Rabe

    Fritz Rabe AH Veteran

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    Thanx a lot Ole Balle.
    You being from Zim will understand perfectly. the second elle did come of the quota and our company carried the costs. It is the way Paul works.
    The Zim PH did conduct the hunt and knew what the consequences were. He just never did a Dangerous Game hunt with a bow and wanted to learn in a big way. He is a magic guy and he does the Zim Ph's proud.

    We prefered the client not to be with us at the end because he could not keep up and was moaning a lot about us being on the wrong track. He believed/maybe still does, that his bull was dead nearby.

    As for the shooting at 40y:
    I have found through many-many tests that such a heavy arrow only fully stabilize after about 20-22y to fly fully straight. Any shot taken closer than that will hamper penetration a lot. I wanted him to practice at 40y so as to be sure that he will hit the target at 30.

    Thanx again for your words. I for one don't mind if someone show me where I do things wrong. I love to learn in order to better myself.

    Have a good one.
  12. spike.t

    spike.t GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    ole bally that was careless of you to leave a 7.62 lying around for the politician to fall over and cut himself so badly on. :whistling::heh:
  13. Fritz Rabe

    Fritz Rabe AH Veteran

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    The elephant was not irritated in any way when we walked up to it. He was not dangerous at any stage. Even when he looked at us from close, he was only curious. If you stand still he will move off. When the client ran, the elephant got a fright and charged. I walked in there to see what he looked like because we could not judge him from where we were.

    In those reeds you can get good shots off sometimes because the animals make paths where you can see clearly. That is how we hunt 80% of the Buffalo in our Mozambique concession. It sounds dangerous but it is doable if you know what you are doing.
  14. Wolverine67

    Wolverine67 AH Fanatic

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    I take it the tusks and the broadhead was never sent to the client. If so I hope you sent it with a letter politely requesting he didnt book any hunt in africa again, maybe with a suggestion he dedicated himself to knitting instead....
  15. Fritz Rabe

    Fritz Rabe AH Veteran

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    We did send it. That was the deal. I gave him my word and that is what I did.
    tiss kocovsky likes this.
  16. Efrain

    Efrain AH Member

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    Thank you for sharing your story, a lot of good lessons could be learned from it.
    Best of Luck
  17. iamyourhuckleberry

    iamyourhuckleberry AH Enthusiast

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    Yes Fritz, thank you for sharing. This is a great way for us to learn. I for one deeply appreciate everything you are doing here.
  18. Stretch

    Stretch AH Fanatic

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    Who is qualified to judge you? No-one has walked in your shoes but you.
    I have followed and enjoyed your tales and if I was to judge anything it would be this....You are an honorable man with great character. You have shown much respect and compassion for the quarry you pursue. You always give it your best effort. The decisions you made are the right decisions regardless of the outcome. You can second guess yourself but no one should judge your decisions. The fact that you have brought this forward shows me a man with integrity and fortitude. Anyone that has had the good fortune to walk by your side and hunt with you has truly been blessed.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

    As a very small consolation. In the natural cycle of life and death, no animal that dies is ever wasted. Other animals benefited from the loss.
  19. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    Namibia, South Africa (East Cape, Guateng and Limpopo)
    Fritz, thanks for the story. Things happen good and bad and hopefully we learn from our experiences.

    I see no problem with you hunting in the reeds for game, you have to get close for a shot anyway. If a shot doesn't present itself you move on to a better target.
  20. Nyati

    Nyati AH Legend

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2011
    Messages:
    2,543
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Madrid, Spain
    My Photos:
    40
    Member of:
    RFEC, RFETO
    Hunted:
    Finland, RSA ( KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo, North West ), Spain
    Sad story, thanks for sharing, you are certainly a man of integrity.

    A good friend of mine is a hunting consultant who specializes in DG and always travels and hunts with his clients. He has told me a few horror stories similar to this one, but has a different policy, if he sees that the client s behaviour leads to dangerous situations, he will just send him back home.

    He refuses to risk the lives of the trackers, local PH and his own for somebody like that.

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